Week 76 – Ha’akame

Malo e lelei!

Last week a senior missionary couple, the Mateaki’s, returned home to Ha’akame after serving in Papua New Guinea, where they had served previously as Mission President. Soon after came their “son”, a man named Andy who has known the Mateaki’s for fifteen years but had never visited Tonga until now. Andy is not a member of the church but is very familiar with the Church and missionaries as he served in the leadership of the police in PNG who often escorted President Mateaki around the country. Thanks to the help of Elder Mateaki we were able to start talking with Andy and have now been teaching him every day since Sunday. Andy has incredible English and so me and Elder Cox have been having fun teaching him. He is actually running for governor of Papua New Guinea next year! It’s definitely an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with him.

On Friday we had our Christmas party where all the zones in Tongatapu got together and performed the musical numbers we’ve been preparing for the past few weeks. All of the stake presidents were invited and most of them came, which was cool. Saturday we had the baptism of three long-time investigators here in Ha’akame. It was definitely the most attended baptism I have ever seen! Almost everyone from both wards came as well as family members. It was awesome to see so much support for these individuals. On Sunday I accompanied the congregation on the piano for the hymns, which was nice since I haven’t played piano in any wards since I worked in Hoi. I also had the opportunity to perform the confirmation ordinance for one of the three who were baptized. It was definitely a moment I will never forget as it was my first time confirming someone but surprisingly I wasn’t too nervous and the words of the blessing came smoothly and easily.

Merry late Christmas and a happy New Year! ‘Ofa atu.


Week 75 – Ha’akame

This week has been busy! Last Thursday Elder Mohulamu and I started working in our new area, Ha’akame, which is just a couple minutes down the road from ‘Utulau. The Sisters working there were transferred to Ha’alalo, which is the town in between Ha’akame and ‘Utulau, however their MQ was still being renovated so they occupied the MQ we were supposed to move into in Ha’akame while we slept in ‘Utulau. At the same time two more Sisters moved in to take our place in ‘Utulau while staying in Liahona. So we had kind of a crazy mini-transfer in our district in the middle of the normal 6-week transfer.

It was pretty tough receiving the news that we would be moving from ‘Utulau, mostly because we had a few investigators who were progressing really well towards baptism and because we gained lots of new investigators in the couple days prior. That feeling dissipated quickly though as we got to work in our new area and realized that the new Sisters would take good care of ‘Utulau.

When we started working in Ha’akame we planned on just visiting the members to get acquainted with them, and running the baptism of one of the investigators of the Sisters before us. We decided to wait until the next week to return to our door-knocking house-to-house method which we started in ‘Utulau. Since then though we have actually had no time to do that because the members here have been flooding us with referrals and teachings. I am grateful that the members here have such a strong desire to help the missionaries. From the past few days I have realized that missionary work is easiest when there’s lots of it to do!

That’s my update for this week. Christmas is just around the weekend! ‘Ofa atu.

Week 73-74 – ‘Utulau

Malo e lelei! The following is my weekly letter to President Tui’one. Sorry for just copying and pasting, and there’s some Tongan words in there but I don’t have much time right now to fix anything. Hopefully it gives you all some insight about how things are going.

Dear President,

This past week might have been the most important week in my mission. After MLC, Elder Mohulamu and I both knew we were falling short of what the Lord expects of us as missionaries and also as zone leaders. On Saturday we did our weekly planning and completely overhauled the way we work. The biggest changes are that we no longer visit kaingalotu during the day, except 7-9pm which is dedicated to teaching investigator lessons with members, and we also hope to visit less-actives during this time if there is nothing else planned or appointments fall through. The majority of our work the past few days has been going house to house, using the pamphlets to share a brief message of 1 or 2 principles, and then setting up a return appointment.

For a long time I have been flipping between thinking door-knocking (without sharing any principle, only asking for an opportunity to teach) is the best way, or that just visiting kaingalotu is the best way to do missionary work. Now that I have tested the Preach My Gospel way of working I can’t imagine going back. This is the way I will work for the rest of my mission because it’s effective, purpose-fulfilling, and it actually feels like work! Yes, there is some regret that it took me this long to understand this but I also feel like everything before now has prepared me to get to the point where I can have the emotional and spiritual stamina to go door-knocking day after day. Also the Mission (referring to the missionaries themselves) doesn’t help much in that it quickly instills the false idea that the way missionaries work in muli just doesn’t work in Tonga and that getting maheni with the kaingalotu is the best way to work. Even in the short time we have started working in the right way the kaingalotu have already responded and now we have at least three scheduled teaching appointments from members for the rest of this week.

Another change we have agreed on is working on Sundays. At first when we talked about that in MLC I felt conflicted because I liked resting on Sunday and felt like nonmembers would be offended by us trying to preach to them on their day of rest. This past Sunday we didn’t go door-knocking but we kept ourselves busy meeting with ward leaders and teaching lessons. After the past couple days though I am highly looking forward to the work we will be able to accomplish visiting nonmembers on Sunday. It feels like a gift I always had but only now discovered to work on Sunday. That is a whole extra day of work that I didn’t take advantage of before but which now I look forward to greatly. Resting on Sunday is definitely another Misiona Tonga tradition which needs to be eliminated.

Their are other changes we have implemented, mostly involving exact obedience. This last MLC was really impactful on both of us. I am thankful for the discussions we were able to have and the inspiration you received to teach on the things that matter most in the Mission.

Everything else written before this I had already written in my journal beforehand. We just found out a couple hours ago we are moving to Ha’akame. To be honest I feel crushed. It seems like a very specifically placed test by God that we are moving right when we found our purpose here. However after hearing the news, the thought quickly came to me that I am so glad we made this change in our work because that will make moving to Ha’akame so much easier. The work doesn’t change, only the area.

We found four new investigators on Monday and two on Tuesday. Just reporting that because I don’t know how the weekly number reports would work with a mid-week transfer. We are very optimistic about two investigators getting baptized next Saturday and possibly a third. As for our zone, everyone is doing well. We had our temple session early this morning and then did ako hiva afterwards to prepare for the Christmas fireside. We met with both our district leaders and shared with them everything we learned in MLC, and then they passed it on at their district meetings. When I met with Elder Mortensen I was able to have an interview-of-sorts too which really helped me get closer with the Liahona district. For a while we felt very disconnected from the other district so it was good to have that interview.

Hope I have written down all my thoughts which were important to share with you. If we are really moving to Ha’akame then I assure you that has no effect at all on our work and we will make sure the STLs have all the help they need to transition smoothly into ‘Utulau. Thank you for everything you do for the Mission.

‘Ofa lahi atu,
Elder Watts